Respect Life

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The Fifth Commandment is: "You shall not kill,"

Man is a creature composed of body and soul.  Some people go about their business as if they had never heard of the soul.  It is also possible to find some, though today they are fewer in number, who look down on the body and almost try to live like angels, who are pure spirits.  The truth is that both body and soul are essential to the human being.  And, though parted by death, the body and the soul are destined to be reunited at the resurrection on the Last Day.

Because we have a soul we are called to share in God's life.  We call this supernatural life, because it is above our natural life here on earth.  The Fifth Commandment gives us the responsibility to care for both the natural and supernatural life that God has given to us and all men.

Right to Life

Since God is the giver of life, no man or group of men has the right to take innocent human life.  To do so is murder.  And murder is a serious crime and a very serious sin, a mortal sin.  If we look around, we can see that many people think they can take the matter of life and death into their own hands.  Many people ignore or accept the murder of millions of unborn babies in our own nation and around the world.  An estimated fifty million unborn babies are killed every year.

Another area where there is a weakening of respect for human life is what is called euthanasia, or "mercy killing".  It is never justified.  A sick, elderly person must be given the normal or ordinary treatment to keep him or her alive.  To do otherwise would me murder.  Extraordinary treatment is another matter - is not obligatory.  These days there is more and more pressure for euthanasia from many quarters.  Men are taking the beginning and the end of life into their own hands.

The Fifth Commandment makes it clear that it is wrong to take innocent life.  Some people maintain that all killing is wrong and never allowable, no matter what the reasons.  But there are certain situations in which killing is not the same thing as murder.  The most obvious examples of this are the taking of life in self-defense, capital punishment, and just wars.  The Church has never condemned these acts as murder.  But since every act of taking human life is a serious matter, we must always look to the Church for guidance in this area.

Murder is not the only violation of the Fifth Commandment.  It would be a mortal sin to injure someone seriously by careless driving.  It is wrong not to care whether our actions may injure others.

Suicide, the act of killing oneself, is always wrong.  If someone commits suicide without full knowledge and consent, however, his responsibility before God is lessened.  God alone is the Master of our lives, and we are too precious in his sight to toss our lives away.  But it is wrong, too, not to take proper care of ourselves, with proper diet, exercise, and rest.  We should avoid risking our lives by doing foolish stunts when we are egged on by a dare or a desire to show off.  We should protect ourselves from disease by sensibly habits of cleanliness and dress.  We should avoid impatience and carelessness that may lead to accident or injury.

Intemperate eating and drinking is a sin that can harm the body; so is the improper use of medicines and other drugs.  All in all, taking a little less food and drink than we want is a small but sensible restraint on our bodies and an excellent form of self-denial.  As we have seen, some self-denial is a necessary part of Christian living. 

"Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that eternal life abides in no murderer's heart" (1 John 3:15).

 Used with the permission of The Ignatius Press 800-799-5534

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